A forceful reckoning with the relationship between energy and power through the history of what was once East Asia’s largest coal mine.
The coal-mining town of Fushun in China’s Northeast is home to a monstrous open pit. First excavated in the early twentieth century, this pit grew like a widening maw over the ensuing decades, as various Chinese and Japanese states endeavored to unearth Fushun’s purportedly “inexhaustible” carbon resources. Today, the depleted mine that remains is a wondrous and terrifying monument to fantasies of a fossil-fueled future and the technologies mobilized in attempts to turn those developmentalist dreams into reality.
In Carbon Technocracy, Victor Seow uses the remarkable story of the Fushun colliery to chart how the fossil fuel economy emerged in tandem with the rise of the modern technocratic state. Taking coal as an essential feedstock of national wealth and power, Chinese and Japanese bureaucrats, engineers, and industrialists deployed new technologies like open-pit mining and hydraulic stowage in pursuit of intensive energy extraction. But as much as these mine operators idealized the might of fossil fuel–driven machines, their extractive efforts nevertheless relied heavily on the human labor that those devices were expected to displace. Under the carbon energy regime, countless workers here and elsewhere would be subjected to invasive techniques of labor control, ever-escalating output targets, and the dangers of an increasingly exploited earth.
Although Fushun is no longer the coal capital it once was, the pattern of aggressive fossil-fueled development that led to its ascent endures. As we confront a planetary crisis precipitated by our extravagant consumption of carbon, it holds urgent lessons. This is a groundbreaking exploration of how the mutual production of energy and power came to define industrial modernity and the wider world that carbon made.
A cutting-edge collection exploring identity-making in East Asia
This is an interdisciplinary study of the cultural politics of nationalism and national identities in modern East Asia. Combining theoretical insights with empirical research, it explores the cultural dimensions of nationhood and identity-making in China, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. The essays address issues ranging from the complex relations between popular culture and national consciousness to the representation of ethnic/racial identity and gendered discourse on nationalism. The cutting-edge research on the diverse forms of cultural preacceptance and the various ways in which this participates in the construction and projection of national and ethnic identities in East Asia illuminates several understudied issues in Asian studies, including the ambiguity of Hong Kong identity during World War II and the intricate politics of the post-war Taiwanese trial of collaboration.
Addressing a wide range of theoretical and historical issues regarding cultural dimensions of nationalism and national identities all over East Asia, these essays draw insights from such recent theories as cultural studies, postcolonial theories, and archival-researched cultural anthropology. The book will be important reading for students of Asian studies as well as for serious readers interested in issues of nationalism and culture.
Kai-wing Chow is Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures. Kevin Doak is Associate Professor of History. Poshek Fu is Associate Professor of History and Cinema Studies. All three teach at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.